Football season is upon us, my friends. It’s hard to believe that summer is ending, kids are going back to school, and in two weeks, the Ravens will take the field for the season home opener against the Bengals–on a Monday night no less. I love football season. I may not always understand what’s going on on the field. But I love that our home team is purple and on Sundays in Baltimore, everywhere you look, people are donning my favorite color. I love Ray Rice and Ed Reed. I love the excitement that triggers touch-down dances and jumping up and down. And I love, love what I like to call “tailgating” food.
On Sunday night, my brother (who is 14) hosted a fantasy football draft party. He had all his little friends over, each with their laptops, sitting around the dining room table, screaming (or just talking loudly, but it sounded like screaming) “who just picked so and so?!” and “it’s your turn!” and “shut up!” It was really adorable. It was.
I offered to make some tailgating food for the party. And at Matt’s request, I had to make sure it “accented pizza,” whatever that means. In my book, wine and beer accent pizza. But I knew that wasn’t going to fly with a bunch of 13 and 14 year-olds. So instead, I made my buffalo chicken dip, baked potato dip, and “super bowl” cheese balls. I thought these were all good ideas for junk-food loving teenagers. I thought that it would all be devoured. I thought that growing boys ate people out of house and home. But they all seemed way too into their draft picks to pay too much attention to the food.
I also came to the realization during this party, that when I was Matt’s age, sitting around with my girl friends, giggling about boys, making prank calls, obsessing about who liked who, the boys who we thought must obviously be doing the same thing about us girls definitely were not. They were busy doing their own thing, playing video games and sports, talking about draft picks, and which teachers gave a lot of homework. A gaggle of brace-faced girls was clearly not their focus in life. It explains a lot. I did hear one boy say, as he was typing on his iPhone, rolling his eyes, that this girl gets pissed when he doesn’t respond to her texts. Other than that, I did not hear a peep about girls. Maybe it’s because my mom and I were in ear shot, but they honestly did not seem to care. Straight teeth and fifteen years later, it seems like nothing has changed.
BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP
Now, I realize everyone has their own way of making buffalo chicken dip. I got this particular recipe from a former co-worker of mine, back when I ate meat. I’ve changed it slightly over the years.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, with the fat trimmed
2 8-oz packages of cream cheese (the kind that comes in a brick. feel free to use low fat)
Blue Cheese Dressing, to taste
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, to taste (or whatever brand you like)
A bunch of shredded cheddar cheese
A few handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 green onion, for garnish
Chips, bread, carrots, celery, or whatever you like for dipping
Boil the chicken breasts until cooked all the way through. Let them cool enough to handle and then shred the chicken into rather small pieces. (You could do this the day before if you wanted.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large skillet, heat the cream cheese over medium heat until it becomes soft and pretty melty. Stir frequently so that it doesn’t burn on one side. Once your cream cheese is soft (and no longer a giant brick), add the chicken, blue cheese and hot sauce. The more blue cheese, the milder and thinner your dip. Add enough hot sauce so that your concoction turns orange. Then add a few handfuls of cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Cook just a few minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Transfer to a baking dish. Top with more cheddar cheese. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly and maybe even a little brown on top.
Garnish with green onions and celery leaves (if desired). Serve immediately with whatever dippers you choose! I used Tostitos for the boys. I had celery too but I forgot to put it out!
LOADED BAKED POTATO DIP
- 6-8 slices of bacon
- 1 16-oz container of sour cream
- 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup of chives, chopped
- 2 tbsp of hot sauce (or to taste)
- A little salt and pepper
- Waffle fries and/or wavy potato chips
Cook your bacon however you like to cook bacon. I cooked mine in the oven on a grill pan (kinda like this), on 350 degrees, for a few minutes on each side, until it was nice and crispy. I had never made bacon before (since I don’t eat meat), but this is how my mom cooks it. It is so much easier than on a skillet! Much less mess. I think my mom sprayed the pan first… Anyway, once the bacon is cool to the touch, crumble it, reserving one piece for garnish (crumbled).
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients (except for the waffle fries and potato chips) and mix until well blended. Garnish with bacon crumbles and a few extra copped chives. Serve with warm waffle fries and potato chips.
Recipe adapted from: allrecipes
SUPER BOWL CHEESE BALLS
These are a recipe I had seen on Pinterest last football season and really wanted to make. They look so good! I’d really built them up in my mind… only to be let down. They weren’t that easy to make and I didn’t love the way they tasted. The sauce also made way too much! So, here’s how I would do it next time. Although, I doubt there will be a next time!
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes, with the juice (I would not use this whole can. Maybe only half or the next size down.)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and soft. Add in the crushed tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and salt and pep. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir frequently. Set aside (and reheat right before serving).
Note: The recipe I used called for a half a cup of olive oil. This was way too much and I could not get the tomatoes and the oil to mix, no matter how long I simmered and stirred. It also made a HUGE mess on my mom’s stove. Sauce bubbles were exploding all over the place!
- 3-4 cups peanut oil, depending on type of pan you will be frying the cheese in
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 2 lb. mozzarella bocconcini (about 50 pieces)
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 cups panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Drain your cheese balls and pat dry with a paper towel. If they seem large, cut into bite sized pieces. It’s okay if they aren’t round!
Whisk together the eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Mix the panko, parmesan, and salt in another shallow bowl. Put the flour in yet another shallow bowl. Heat your peanut oil. If you have a deep frying thermometer, it should be 350 degrees. I did not have one of those. So, I just put enough oil in a sauce pan to cover my cheese balls and heated it until it almost looked like cracks were forming in the bottom of the pan. I did not have enough peanut oil once things got going, so I switched to canola.
Dip cheese balls into flour, then egg mixture, then panko mixture. Repeat. Each ball should be dipped twice. I thought I was reading that wrong at first, but no, you really dip in flour, egg, panko, flour, egg, panko. Otherwise, the breading would likely fall off as soon as you fry.
In batches, fry the cheese balls for a few minutes, turning so they are fully submerged in the oil, and until they are browned. Place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven while you are cooking the other batches of cheese balls to keep them warm.
Salt to taste and serve immediately with the sauce.
Note: This recipe was exhausting. I would only make half of it next time. I got super sick of dipping my cheese balls and frying them. I eventually quit, with about 10 cheeseballs left to fry. I also could really taste the peanut oil. Not sure if that’s b/c the bottle I used was old, but next time, I might stick with canola oil from the beginning. Oh, wait, there isn’t going to be a next time. I forgot.
Recipe adapted from: the Curvy Carrot.